Joy Kirr reveals the secrets to engaging students during online and offline learning.

Hello! My name is Joy Kirr, and I’m a suburban public school teacher of 25 years, the author of Shift This and Word Shift, I have tried on many hats including teacher of deaf and hard of hearing students, reading specialist, department head, yearbook editor, and for the last 11 years, middle school classroom teacher. When I see a problem involving my students, it becomes my priority.

The problem of low student engagement

We really don’t need to look at Gallup polls in order to see that our students are not engaged. We see it in class, during the school year, we see it becoming more of an issue while trying to teach remotely, and they’re not engaged for many different reasons.

Some aren’t ready for school, they are not playing the school game, they’re antsy, they just can’t really get excited about our curriculum. Heaven forbid, they might not be engaged because they don’t click with us. There are myriad reasons why our students would not be engaged in what we’re trying to teach them.

That was a challenge that I wanted to overcome. This is two-fold, however, because I also wanted to get to know my students better, thinking that if I made more connections, engagement in the curriculum would improve. When I know them better, I can teach them more effectively.


The solution I’m proposing is called Heartbreak Mapping.

It’s a graphic of sorts students can create with little to no guidance. It can be scaffolded for younger children or children who feel they need more parameters. After it’s created, you and the student use it as a guide to direct learning moving forward.

I have used it in the past to continue with something called Genius Hour, or student-directed learning, which I’ll explain just a tid bit about later. I want to share heartbreak mapping with you, so, too, can help keep your students engaged more in their learning.


Learn more about Heartbreak Mapping now.

Increasing Student Engagement Through Heartbreak Mapping is an online micro-course for practicing teachers who want to motivate students and increase student engagement in their classrooms. This course explores specific teaching strategies as well as project based learning including the concept of Genius Hour. The Heartbreak Mapping activity is designed for use with students in grades 4-12, and can be utilized in just about any subject. Further reading on topics covered and specific examples of use are provided within the course.